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Lilliput Montessori Day Nurseries

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  • Region: East Midlands

Family-run nursery group in Leicestershire praises Unity Trust Bank support after it becomes an Employee Owned Company

A group of pre-school nurseries in Leicestershire which became an Employee Owned Company – only the second in the UK to do so – has praised the support it’s received from Unity Trust Bank.

Lilliput Montessori Day Nurseries was founded by Paul and Sam Graveling in 1994 and has five centres in Anstey, Coalville, Whetstone, Glenfield and Leicester Forest East.

Lilliput Montessori Day NurseriesThe couple, who got into childcare when Sam couldn’t find a suitable nursery for their first son so that she could return to work, decided to transition the business as part of their future retirement plans and to support their 100-strong workforce.

Paul said: “Having so many long-serving employees, our company has a family feel to it and we were reluctant to sell to a third party in case it destroyed that.”

The couple sold 70 per cent of their shares to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) through cash reserves and a loan. Employees did not have to buy shares, but they effectively own the majority of the company.

Paul said: “It’s important that everyone benefits financially from the success of the company. We wanted the loan repaid over a short time but the repayments were quite a drain, so we decided to refinance and free-up cash so that more could be distributed to our employees.

“We chose Unity for our new loan and regular banking services. Unity have been very understanding, unlike at the bigger banks where your numbers get put into a machine and if it says no, then that’s it. At Unity you have a named person you can phone up and speak to rather than just a call centre number. We like that personal touch.”

Andy Ball, Relationship Manager at Unity Trust Bank, said: “Our mission is to help to create a better society and we believe that employee ownership contributes to this. As well as assisting in profitability, it produces engaged and loyal workforces.”

Deb Oxley, Chief Executive of the Employee Ownership Association, said: “Access to finance can be one of the barriers to becoming employee owned, so we are delighted to congratulate Lilliput nurseries on its move to employee ownership supported by our Trustee member Unity Trust Bank.

“Businesses that give employees a stake and a say sustain their values and independence for the longer term by making employees custodians of the business for future generations. This leaves the business in a better position to flex, innovate and adapt – key qualities needed for the UK to be able to Build Back Better.”

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